ON THE CHANGE OF REFRANGIBILITY OF LIGHT.
238. The only theory of absorption, so far as I am aware, in which an attempt is made to deduce its laws from a physical cause is that of the Baron Von Wrede, who attributes absorption to interference*. The Baron's paper is in many respects very beautiful, but it has always appeared to me to be a fatal objection to his theory that it supposes vibrations to be annihilated. It is true that two streams of light may interfere and produce darkness but then to make up for it more light is produced in other quarters. Light is not lost by interference, but only the illumination differently distributed. Were the disappearance of light in the direction of a pencil admitted into a medium merely a phenomenon of interference, the full quantity of light admitted ought to be forthcoming in side directions. Were a series of vibrations incident on a medium, without producing any progressive change in its state, or any disturbance issuing from it, it would follow that work was continually being annihilated. But we have reason to think that the annihilation of work is no less a physical impossibility than its creation, that is, than perpetual motion.
List of highly sensitive substances.
239. For the sake of any one who may wish to make experiments in this subject, I subjoin a list of the more remarkable of the substances which have fallen under my notice. It will be seen that most of these substances were suggested by the papers of Sir David Brewster and Sir John Herschel.
Glass coloured by peroxide of uranium: yellow uranite: nitrate or acetate of the peroxide. Probably various other salts of the peroxide would do as well. The absorption bands of the salts, whether sensitive or not, of peroxide of uranium ought to be studied in connexion with the change of refrangibility.
A solution of the green colouring matter of leaves in To obtain a solution which will keep, it is well previously to the leaves in boiling water. The alcohol should not I permanently in contact with the leaves, unless it be observe the changes which in that case take place, but pou
* Poggcndorif s Annalen, B. xxxni. S. 353 ; or Taylor's Scientific Mei Vol. i. p. 477.